What does an Art Therapist do?

Art therapy is also termed as creative therapy or expressive therapy. It is concerned with promoting the psychological and physical well-being of patients. An art therapist is someone with professional training and certification in art therapy.

Art therapists help people communicate their feelings through art.

A bachelor’s and a master’s degree in a therapy-related subject are the qualifications required for this field. It helps to have formal art training or art teaching experience. Some practical experience in social work or some supervised clinical experience is also usually required.

In the US, many states require art therapists to obtain a registration (ATR) from an independent credentialing board such as the Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc (ATCB). The board also conducts a written exam and awards a Board Certification (BC) to successful participants. Art therapists must maintain this certification through continuing education.

Art therapy can help children express emotions that may be difficult to articulate verbally.

The work involves working with people with emotional problems, people suffering from trauma and people with disabilities. Art therapists also work with people undergoing medical treatment, people undergoing rehabilitation, and people who are terminally ill. Therapists can work with children, adolescents, seniors, couples, families, groups and communities.

Art therapy can take many forms.

Art therapists work in consultation with doctors, nurses, health specialists and other therapists. Art therapists are generally employed in hospitals, hospices, schools and other public organizations. Some art therapists do independent consulting work.

The ATCB has set certain ethical standards for the profession. Art therapists can only accept cases for which they are fully qualified to handle. They cannot accept a case that is already being handled by another therapist without that therapist’s knowledge and permission.

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An art therapist cannot refuse to treat patients on discriminatory grounds. The therapist must explain the process and benefits of therapy to the patient in clear terms. When counseling patients, art therapists must be nonjudgmental, flexible and mentally strong. Professional discretion is essential.

To begin with, an art therapist will assess a patient to determine whether art therapy is the appropriate form of treatment for them. The therapist can then select an appropriate form of art therapy or let the patient choose one of her choice. The art therapist provides the patient with the necessary artistic materials.

The patient is then encouraged to work on the artwork. The art therapist can provide guidance, but does not tell the patient what to do. Once the art is complete, the therapist can discuss it with the patient.

By encouraging creative and productive work, art therapists help people gain personal insights, develop self-esteem and develop better communication skills. Creative therapy can serve as an outlet for patients dealing with painful treatments and psychological trauma. Expressive therapy can increase emotional resilience and give people a sense of control over their lives.

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